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England prospect wants foot race with Prem's fastest players

By Chris Jones
Ollie Hassell-Collins of England looks on during a Training Session at The Lensbury on June 09, 2022 in Teddington, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Ollie Hassell-Collins, the London Irish wing, wants to race off against the Premiership’s fastest wings to determine who is English rugby’s speed king.

Hassell-Collins will get the chance to measure himself against two of the fastest Premiership wings when Newcastle arrive at the Gtech Community Stadium in Brentford boasting the turbo-charged twins Adam Rawan (England) and Mateo Carreras (Argentina) who have both delivered superb solo tries this season.

Hassell-Collins added another try to his showreel with a brilliant long-range score against reigning champions Leicester last weekend but it couldn’t save the club from yet another narrow 33-31 defeat that sees them bottom of the league.

With Eddie Jones, the underfire England head coach, being urged to look again at Radwan, Hassell-Collins and Harlequins Cadan Murley, the idea of a run-off between the leading wings would settle a few arguments. Hassell- Collins would add Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit, of Gloucester, to the race as well although Henry Arundell, the Irish full back is currently out of contention as he is in a boot for six weeks after foot surgery.

Hassell-Collins said: “We need to have a race with myself Radwan, Henry Arundell, Ben Loader, Murley and Louis Rees-Zammit- something needs to get arranged! There have been a lot of good wingers for a long time and I am looking at Radwan and Murley and thinking I need to push my game on and do better and hopefully they are seeing the same things. You look at what wingers are doing to get into the squads.

“Since Harlequins won the Premiership the game has become more open and rule changes have probably helped with more space on the edges. It is just fun to get the ball and run fast and I really enjoy doing that. When you see Carreras scoring tries like he has you cannot help but think “ Wow” and he has scored some unbelievable ones and Radwan scored a nice one against Gloucester and you just have to sit back and clap them.”

Hassell-Collins has been involved in England squads under Eddie Jones and has been given regular feedback from the international set up about areas of his game that need improvement to win him a starting spot. He explained: “I have been working on those moments ( to break open a game) for some time and its nice to see the outcome and (against Leicester) I just put my foot on the gas and managed to get over the try line.

“I have had some straightforward feedback (from England) of what I need to do which is two or three things to focus on. They have kept in contact which is nice but I am fully focused on Irish and I want to get us winning and if England happens then great. I learnt so much in camps with England and the wingers in there have been on the international stage for a long time and so it is pretty cool to learn from them. I was in the England camp with Radwan and we know each quite well and he is rapid and someone I am going to have to contain.

“Radwan and Carreras are smaller and have a low centre of gravity and you don’t want to give them too much space or they will be gone. My point of difference is my size and I am trying to come off my wing and get those touches in the middle of the pitch. “

Newcastle boss Dave Walder is also relishing the battle between his wings and the back line speed Irish are able to boast including Hassell-Collins and Loader and said: “I am looking forward to it and hopefully we get the better of the battle. They try and give their wings the ball in space and are real threats and while we use our wingers slightly differently, they are no less effective. It will be exciting and I hope our two get the better of their two.”

With Arundell out, Hassell-Collins has become even more important to an Exiles team that has amassed more losing bonus points than any other Premiership team yet lies at the bottom of the table. This has created understandable frustration at the club and with in-form Newcastle – with two recent wins over Gloucester and Exeter – arriving there is danger the Irish could be upset again.

He believes the form Irish showed at Leicester proves they are delivering good rugby but admits finding consistency is vital to start turning close defeats into much-needed wins. “The performance at Leicester was encouraging but we gave them too much in the first half: “he added.” We took two points back with us and now we want a victory before we go into the European games.”